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Four keys to mitigating risk at feed mills and manufacturing facilities

Posted on
April 27, 2018
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By: Lauren Meyer, Quality Control and Product Development Director

Even before the onset of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) animal feed mills and manufacturing facilities have worked to ensure quality assurance for their customer base. By today’s standards, risk abatement is just as important to a mill’s bottom line as is the accurate feeds they supply to farms. It is more vital now than ever that mill and facility managers find means to capture and document the ingredients and feeds they oversee.

Quality assurance at the feed mill level incorporates three key pieces - sampling and analyzing incoming ingredients, sampling and analyzing feed and mineral mixes, and finally sampling and analyzing the final products. To help mill and manufacturing facilities mitigate risk and help their bottom line, I usually recommend four core aspects for managers to focus on:

Review ingredient supply accuracy and safety

Laboratory analyses performed on ingredients ensures that the custom mixes produced from these ingredients accurately fulfill orders, and assists in making the ‘quality in, quality out’ mantra possible. Identifying potential hazards is the first step in mitigating risk and checking the ingredients provided by a supplier through regular sampling and analysis is one of the best places to start.

Toxins, mineral deficiencies, and excessive minerals can play a part in rendering an ingredient unfit or in some cases lethal to animal consumption. Less extreme hazards can also cause challenges. In some such cases, our laboratory analysis of ingredients has been able to identify when manufacturing facilities are supplied with the wrong product. In one such case, a mix was testing high for a certain mineral. We called the client and the irregular level helped them uncover that their supplier was sending them the wrong mineral.

Secure and take advantage of accurate feed formulations

After supplied ingredients have been checked, securing the accuracy of the mixes produced at the mill or manufacturing plant is the next point of focus. Mill managers can start by reviewing protein, minerals and salt, but they should also consider checking mixing equipment.

A mixer evaluation test can help decipher if the mixers on-site are precisely spreading all ingredients equally across the mix. The mixer evaluation analysis measures the zinc and manganese in ten different samples throughout a mix, comparing them against each other and the expected levels. This assessment identifies the proper distribution of ingredients and provides a coefficient of variation to improve mixing.

Formulating feeds accurately can also help mills take advantage of high-component ingredients. Various mills that have analyzed their ingredients have sometimes found ingredients to be higher in certain components than what was originally expected. For instance, a typical 46.5 percent protein soybean meal may test at 50 percent. That mill can now accurately create a mix that hits all the exact protein and fat levels requested by the end user, but the mill has to use less of the ingredient. In such cases, everyone wins. The mill can enjoy getting more bang for their buck on the ingredients and the farmer gets the exact mix they were expecting.

Capture data for quality assurance credibility

While risk abatement is what a mill manager sees, the producer customers see quality assurance they can depend on when they work with a mill or manufacturing facility. The easiest way to showcase your facility’s attention to quality assurance – be it to new or prospective customers - is through data. Trust is built on credibility and regular analysis captures the data to build that credibility.

Keep records that translate from mill to farm and supply chain

All the data collected from supplier ingredients and mixes can turn into a mess if not handled correctly. Mill managers need to not only be able to interpret facility records, but also track the ingredients and mixes that shuttle from suppliers to mills and from mills to farms. As restrictions tighten and checks become a regular part of the mill and manufacturer feed business, it’s important for managers to track and record ingredients from entry to exit and even to the animals that consumed them.

Find an analysis partner that can make your record keeping seamless and easy. It will be worth your time to work with a laboratory or consultant that can organize all the data you’re collecting and ensure that if you have to prove something, the right information is captured, in the right place and is easy to follow through the full process. At Rock River Laboratory, we provide these opportunities and an organized, detailed records system through our Mill Quality Assurance program. Learn more about how this program can fit your mill or manufacturing needs here.

Records must follow a sample all the way from the mill to the farm, so ensuring that the batch has the same identification throughout the process is vital. No manager wants to face a lawsuit; they deplete time and money and ruin reputations. The better the records, the easier it is to squash a lawsuit before it even gets to the courts.

When risks are mitigated by putting processes in place to proactively ensure quality of all feedstuffs, mill managers can have greater confidence to sell their facility’s capabilities and dedication to quality assurance. When the proactive pieces are already in motion, compliance and money savings happen naturally.

Posted in:
Mills and Manufacturing

Rock River Laboratory

Founded in 1976, Rock River Laboratory is a family-owned laboratory network that provides production assistance to the agricultural industry through the use of advanced diagnostic systems, progressive techniques, and research-supported analyses.  Employing a team of top specialists in their respective fields, Rock River Laboratory provides accurate, cost-effective, and timely analytical results to customers worldwide, while featuring unsurpassed customer service.

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